Immediately after his father's death, (the son put off his cap, and) kept his hair, with the pin in it, in the bag (of silk); went barefoot, with the skirt of his dress tucked up under his girdle; and wailed with his hands across his breast. In the bitterness of his grief, and the distress and pain of his thoughts, his kidneys were injured, his liver dried up, and his lungs scorched, while water or other liquid did not enter his mouth, and for three days fire was not kindled (to cook anything for him). On this account the neighbours prepared for him gruel and rice-water, which were his (only) meat and drink. The internal grief and sorrow produced a change in his outward appearance; and with the severe pain in his heart, his mouth could not relish any savoury food, nor his body find ease in anything pleasant.
On the third day there was the (slighter) dressing (of the corpse). While the body was on the couch it was called the corpse; when it was put into the coffin, it was called jiu. At the moving of the corpse, and lifting up of the coffin, (the son) wailed and leaped, times without number. Such was the bitterness of his heart, and the pain of his thoughts, so did his grief and sorrow fill his mind and agitate his spirit, that he bared his arms and leaped, seeking by the movement of his limbs to obtain some comfort to his heart and relief to his spirit. The women could not bare their arms, and therefore they (merely) pushed out the breast, and smote upon their hearts, moving their feet with a sliding, hopping motion, and with a constant, heavy sound, like the crumbling away of a wall. The expression of grief, sorrow, and deep-seated pain was extreme; hence it is said, 'With beating of the breast and movement of the feet, did they sorrowfully accompany the body; so they escorted it away, and so did they come back to meet its essential part.'
When (the mourners) went, accompanying the coffin (to the grave), they looked forward, with an expression of eagerness, as if they were following some one, and unable to get up to him. When returning to wail, they looked disconcerted, as if they were seeking some one whom they could not find. Hence, when escorting (the coffin), they appeared full of affectionate desire; when returning, they appeared full of perplexity. They had sought the (deceased), and could not find him; they entered the gate, and did not see him; they went up to the hall, and still did not see him; they entered his chamber, and still did not see him; he was gone; he was dead; they should see him again nevermore. Therefore they wailed, wept, beat their breasts, and leaped, giving full vent to their sorrow, before they ceased. Their minds were disappointed, pained, fluttered, and indignant. They could do nothing more with their wills; they could do nothing but continue sad.
In presenting the sacrifice (of repose) in the (to his parent) ancestral temple, (the son) offered it in his disembodied state, hoping that his shade would peradventure return (and enjoy it). When he came back to the house from completing the grave, he did not venture to occupy his chamber, but dwelt in the mourning shed, lamenting that his parent was now outside. He slept on the rushes, with a clod for his pillow, lamenting that his parent was in the ground. Therefore he wailed and wept, without regard to time; he endured the toil and grief for three years. His heart of loving thoughts showed the mind of the filial son, and was the real expression of his human feelings.
Some one may ask, 'Why does the dressing not commence till three days after death?' and the answer is - When his parent is dead, the filial son is sad and sorrowful, and his mind is full of trouble. He crawls about and bewails his loss, as if the dead might come back to life; how can he hurriedly take (the corpse) and proceed to dress it? Therefore, when it is said that the dressing does not begin till after three days, the meaning is, that (the son) is waiting that time to see if (his father) will come to life. When after three days there is no such return, the father is not alive, and the heart of the filial son is still more downcast. (During this space, moreover), the means of the family can be calculated, and the clothes that are necessary can be provided and made accordingly; the relations and connexions who live at a distance can also arrive. Therefore the sages decided in the case that three days should be allowed, and the rule was made accordingly.
Some one may ask, 'How is it that one with the cap on does not bare his arms, and show the naked body?' and the answer is - The cap is the most honourable article of dress, and cannot be worn where the body is bared, and the flesh exposed. Therefore the cincture for the head is worn instead of the cap, (when the arms are bared). And so, when a bald man does not wear the cincture, and a hunchback does not bare his arms, and a lame man does not leap, it is not that they do not feel sad, but they have an infirmity which prevents them from fully discharging the usages. Hence it is said that in the rites of mourning it is the sorrow that is the principal thing. When a daughter wails, weeps, and is sad, beats her breast, and wounds her heart; and when a son wails, weeps, is sad, and bows down till his forehead touches the ground, without regard to elegance of demeanour, this may be accepted as the highest expression of sorrow.
Some one may ask, 'What is the idea in the cincture?' and the reply is - The cincture is what is worn while uncapped. The Rule says, 'Boys do not wear (even) the three months' mourning; it is only when the family has devolved on one that he does so.' The cincture, we may suppose, was what was worn in the three months' mourning (by a boy). If he had come to be the representative of the family, he wore the cincture, and carried the staff.
Some one may ask, 'What is meant by (using) the staff?' and the answer is - The staff of bamboo and that of elaeococcus wood have the same meaning. Hence, for a father they used the black staff of bamboo; and for a mother, the square-cut staff, an elaeococcus branch.
Some one may say, (What is meant by (using) the staff?' and the answer is - When a filial son mourns for a parent, he wails and weeps without regard to the number of times; his endurances are hard for three years; his body becomes ill and his limbs emaciated; and so he uses a staff to support his infirmity. Thus, while his father is alive he does not dare to use a staff, because his honoured father is still living. Walking in the hall, he does not use the staff - refraining from doing so in the place where his honoured father is. Nor does he walk hastily in the hall - to show that he is not hurried. Such is the mind of the filial son, the real expression of human feeling, the proper method of propriety and righteousness. It does not come down from heaven, it does not come forth from the earth; it is simply the expression of the human feelings.
Source: Chinese Text Project http://ctext.org/liji. English translation "Sacred Books of the East, volume 28, part 4: The Li Ki", James Legge, 1885